AUSTIN, TX—Nov. 9, 2015—On the heels of new data showing massive reductions in the number of youth incarcerated, legislators, judges, juvenile justice administrators and other representatives from all 50 states will meet Monday to tackle the next big challenge: making sure supervision and services provided in the correctional facilities and in the community reduce the likelihood youth will be rearrested and end up in the adult criminal justice system.
“The recently released figures describing the plunging decline in incarcerated youth are stunning: Nearly every state in the U.S. has reduced by more than half the number of youth in correctional facilities. We’ve achieved those declines while juvenile arrests are hitting historic lows,” said Michael Lawlor, undersecretary of Criminal Policy and Planning for the state of Connecticut, which has seen the largest percentage reduction of all states. “That’s an accomplishment that deserves to be celebrated.”
According to new numbers from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), states’ juvenile incarceration rates have plummeted by 55 percent overall from 1997 to 2013. But there’s been less progress ensuring youth released from facilities or under community supervision succeed by staying crime free, achieving academically and getting jobs. Rearrest rates have commonly reached as high as 80 percent within three years of release from a facility, and rates for youth on community supervision are often not much better.
State teams, which comprise lawmakers, juvenile justice officials, and judicial leaders, are convening for a two-day, live-streamed event, “Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: A 50-State Forum,” to build on their recent successes and to take aim at positioning youth for success later in life.
The forum, organized by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacAthur Foundation and OJJDP, will be held in Austin, TX, where state officials met earlier this year to review the results of a study that asked an important question: How are kids faring closer to home, as opposed to being incarcerated in state secure facilities?
“The data coming out of Texas showed us, for the first time, how much better kids do closer to home,” said Susan Burke, Utah’s Director of Juvenile Justice Services. “It also showed us that additional investment in probation and treatment alone doesn’t translate into reduced recidivism among youth under community supervision. This forum is so important because it focuses policymakers on what’s next: making sure the services and supports we provide youth in the community are grounded in the latest research. ”
At the forum, participants will be encouraged to charge a group of state and local leaders with using checklists provided by the CSG Justice Center to assess whether current policies and practices match the latest research on “what works.”
“We hope that each team will leave this forum having established the ground work for a comprehensive plan that they continue to build on at home,” said Laurie Garduque, director of justice reform at the MacArthur Foundation. “We’ve had unmistakable success lowering youth incarceration rates in the US. At the same time, we must set our sights even higher: Lowering rearrest rates and improving the future outcomes of youth in contact with the juvenile justice children is the next frontier for this field.”
OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee will pledge the federal government’s support to states developing these comprehensive plans, announcing a new competitive grant program that draws on Second Chance Act funding.
New York Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry also emphasized that keeping a young person out of prison and making sure he or she isn’t rearrested should not be the only benchmark for success. “How are we making sure they get an education?” he said. “How are we ensuring they’re on a path to a successful career? Our responsibility isn’t just to keep them out of the criminal justice system, but to help this generation of young people be successful.”
With about 300 people scheduled to attend, state teams will review practical, user-friendly summaries of what the research shows to be effective strategies to reduce recidivism and improve other youth outcomes. Policymakers will hear how states across the country are tracking outcome data and using this data to guide policy and funding decisions. The CSG Justice Center also released new materials Monday to help aid forum discussion:
- “Reducing Recidivism and Improving Other Outcomes for Young Adults in the Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems”: An issue brief on young adults (18-to-25-year-olds), the likeliest age group to commit serious offenses, identifies gaps in states’ policies toward this demographic. The report’s recommendations include tailoring supervision and services to address young adults’ distinct needs; reducing barriers across service systems; and improving data collection and reporting on young-adult recidivism and other outcomes.
- Improving Outcomes for Youth Infographics: These documents will detail three critical challenges faced by states to improve outcomes for youth, identify the key questions that policymakers should ask, and offer strategies for protecting public safety and using resources more efficiently.
ABOUT THE CSG JUSTICE CENTER
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and evidence-based, consensus-driven strategies to increase public safety and strengthen communities. For more information about the Justice Center, visit www.csgjusticecenter.org.